The Hawks have reportedly been interested in just about every center under the sun since the new year, with names including Andre Drummond, Clint Capela, Steven Adams, Dewayne Dedmon, Mo Bamba, and Jakob Poeltl. The team clearly wants a rim protector on the court and is leaving no stone unturned in their search to transform this team defensively. All these players are seven-footers who can defend the hoop, something Alex Len, Bruno Fernando, and Damian Jones have not been capable of doing this season.
This is a legitimate need. The Hawks are also 24th in rebounds this season and 27th in second-chance points allowed, so they desire somebody who can clean the boards. They do not have the type of center who is capable of changing the trajectory of shots at the rim, and given the reports, it seems the front office and ownership have seen enough. The departure of Dewayne Dedmon in free agency last summer has definitely hurt more than they likely thought it would.
It may be tough for fans to watch right now, but it would be foolish for Atlanta to give up any future assets at this point for a temporary fix, with the team’s record being 13-37. Even if it is a long-term fix, unless it’s an irresistible superstar talent, the team needs to wait and evaluate its options. This year is a lost cause, and while it would be ideal to see the team make strides towards competing, they must do their due diligence this offseason.
Not only should the Hawks wait to keep their options open, but they should also see how their young players develop for the remainder of the season. For example, Cam Reddish and Kevin Huerter are both playing at a completely different level than they were just a month ago. Atlanta needs to evaluate their own roster before making their first move towards making a push, and we are only just recently getting to see them play as a complete unit.
The Hawks have over $70 million coming off the books at the end of the year, giving them the most cap space in the NBA this offseason, and have two picks that should be in the top 20 of the 2020 NBA Draft.
Free-agent centers this summer include Andre Drummond, Montrezl Harrell, DeMarcus Cousins, Marc Gasol, and Hassan Whiteside. All are realistic options to sign with Atlanta via free agency, without the Hawks giving up any assets. Gasol, Whiteside, and Cousins are all possibilities for short-term contracts that would allow Atlanta to keep their cap situation flexible for future superstars.
But the real reason the Hawks should exercise patience is the possibility of taking a big man in the NBA Draft. If they land one of the top 2 picks, there is a high chance they select James Wiseman. If they fall in the lottery, USC big man Onyeka Okongwu, who is flying up draft boards, could be a possibility. If they wait until the Nets’ pick, Vernon Carey Jr. is also an option, and the way mocks are currently shaping up, he could ultimately be the steal of the draft.
In other words, the possibilities of adding a big man are endless for Atlanta.
I have no problem with the Hawks pursuing a veteran big man to solidify the team defensively. But making this move before you even know where you are drafting is foolish. For example, if the team acquires a guy like Steven Adams, what happens if James Wiseman is the best player remaining on the board? You have to give your top pick minutes early, right?
It is exciting to see the Hawks priming themselves to become more competitive, but realistically, that window starts this summer. I’ll say this; there is no way they do not enter the 2020-21 season without an upgrade at center. However, making that move at this point is jumping the gun, and may be a bit desperate.